The National Academies

ACRP 11-01/Topic 08-02 [Final]

Legal Risks of Operating a Public Airport
[ ACRP 11-01 (Legal Aspects of Airport Programs) ]

  Project Data
Principal Investigator: Jodi Howick
Effective Date: 5/24/2016
Completion Date: 7/14/2017


Aircraft accidents occur for many reasons and several theories have been advanced for airport liability. Some cases have alleged, for example, airports were liable for not maintaining a “safe flight environment” as defined by FAA compliance requirements or for noncompliance with State and local licensing regulations. Other cases have alleged liability for noncompliance with zoning ordinances to protect “navigable airspace.” Failure to issue appropriate NOTAMs,   wildlife hazard and management, fueling operations, FOD, and snow and ice control are among the types of situations that can generate claims of liability. Airport owners and operators may be unaware of the existence of these cases and theories that have supported liability when accidents occur at their airports.


The objective of this research is to produce a guidebook that addresses the full scope of legal risks and responsibilities associated with operating a public airport as they relate to airport owner or operator liability for aircraft accidents. The research should analyze and describe litigation and case law that have found airports liable for negligence or unsafe airport conditions that were contributing factors to accidents. 

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